We're back on the offensive side of the football today, as our Position Battle series keeps on rolling, and today, we dissect the running backs currently on the Oakland Raiders roster.
While many of the faces in the group are the same from a year ago, the addition of rookie Josh Jacobs to the room will likely cause ripple effects from now until the start of the regular season.
There are no shortage of intriguing possibilities surrounding Kirby Wilson's group, but one thing is for certain, the entire room – from top to bottom – is a talented one.
With that preamble now complete, let's dive into the questions surrounding the Raiders running backs as we prepare for Training Camp 2019,
*Alec Ingold and Keith Smith, who are both listed as fullbacks, are included in this Position Battle
Chris Warren III
Battle to watch:
EP: I'm very curious about who ends up being the Silver and Black's "third down back" in 2019.
A year ago, that role was filled primarily by Jalen Richard, and if we're being honest, No. 30 was stellar in that role.
Richard led all of the Silver and Black's running backs in receiving yards by a large margin – in fact, with 607 receiving yards, he was the team's third-leading receiver – and his ability to make plays both as a receiver and a ball carrier made him one of the team's more indispensable weapons in 2018.
That said, every year presents its fair share of challenges, and headed into training camp, I don't think there are any roles etched in stone just yet.
We've heard all offseason that Josh Jacobs can be a three-down back who never comes off the field; will he find himself taking some of those reps that belonged to Richard? Or will DeAndré Washington – another ultra-talented dude built similarly to Jalen – have a strong camp and earn himself some run this year?
A smarter man than I once told me that a good change-of-pace back can be the key to a good offense; which player steps up and earns that gig?
KM: It seems like this battle has been going on for three years now, but Jalen Richard vs. DeAndré Washington.
The duo joined the Silver and Black the same season (2016), and have been utilized in similar ways during their time with the team, but with the addition of rookie running back Josh Jacobs I wonder how the depth chart will look two months from now.
Statistically speaking, the two are practically identical when it comes to rushing attempts and touchdowns, but Richard has established himself as more of pass catcher out of the backfield. "The Rocket" has 1,057 receiving yards to his name, with three touchdowns, and 124 receptions. As rushers, the duo offers similar things, but I suspect the special teams unit is what ends up being the deciding factor between these two playmakers.
Richard and Washington are both two talented individuals that deserve a roster spot somewhere. Who knows, maybe both will enter their fourth season with the Raiders, but it'll be a battle all camp long.
Storyline to follow:
EP: So just how good is this Josh Jacobs kid?
Like most positions on the roster, you can't really get a true reading of what the running backs will be just by seeing them run around in shorts and t-shirts, but that portion of the season is over, and once the team descends into Napa, it's a whole new ballgame.
Back to Jacobs though; the No. 24 overall pick in this year's draft comes in with big expectations – and for good reason – and while I firmly believe that dynamic running back will have a big 2019, I'm anxious to actually see the man at work.
By all accounts, the rookie is about as complete of a running back as you can hope to have in 2019, but as they say, talk is cheap, and I want to see, in person, what the University of Alabama product brings to the table.
You best believe, that I'll be locked in on No. 28 every day at camp.
KM: How does Head Coach Jon Gruden manage the reps?
With a first-round draft choice attached to his name, Josh Jacobs will take over a majority of the reps at some point, but knowing Coach Gruden, the rest of the running backs on the roster – whoever they may be – will be factored in one way or another.
The problem, though, is that the Raiders have too many mouths to feed. Between Jacobs, Richard, Washington, Chris Warren III, Doug Martin, and Keith Smith, who will be left at the end of the preseason? That I don't know, but I suspect there will be some tough decisions made in this department prior to the start of the regular season.
Previewing the Raiders running backs as we approach 2019 Training Camp. Rookie first-round draft pick Josh Jacobs joins a group of veteran running backs.
Keep an eye on…
EP: Chris Warren III.
After a dominant preseason a year ago, CWIII almost overnight became a fan favorite for Raider Nation, and it's hard to blame them for loving the way he plays.
A running back in a linebacker's body, Warren had no shortage of explosive plays during his first few months in Silver and Black, but unfortunately, an injury forced him to miss the entirety of his rookie campaign.
The former Texas Longhorn is now healthy, and even though it's been almost a calendar year, the excitement from the fans to see Warren tote the rock hasn't' been dampened.
The running backs room in Oakland is stacked this year, no doubt about it, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Warren earned himself a spot on the 53-man roster.
KM: I'm with Eddie on this one; Raider Nation is still salivating after Chris Warren III's preseason last year.
Warren got everyone fired up during a joint practice with the Detroit Lions when he sent linebacker Jarrad Davis flying with a shoulder pad to the chest. It was one of the more impressive hits I've seen in person, regardless of whether or not it was during training camp.
Following that hit, Warren showed it was more than just a fluke by lighting up the preseason. By the end of the four-game slate, the former Texas Longhorn had totaled 58 rush attempts for 292 yards, averaging five yards per carry, and added two touchdowns. Unfortunately, Warren was placed on the Injured Reserve list shortly thereafter, but it's clear the coaching staff still has high hopes for the 23 year old.
Question you want answered by the end of training camp:
EP: Where exactly does Doug Martin fit in this whole equation?
After a productive first season in Oakland, the veteran running back has returned – albeit it with a new number – but as of now, I'm not sure exactly what role he's set to fill.
The man still has some gas left in the tank, that's for sure, but I'm curious to see if Coach Gruden utilizes Martin more in the "mentor" role in 2019.
Time will tell.
KM: Going to reiterate pretty much everything I've been saying, but how does Gruden manage everyone's reps?
The Raiders have a lot of talent in the backfield and determining who's worthy of a roster spot will be tough, but it needs to be done in order to create room.